Walking home

( Russia, 1990s )

(  ‘Orphanage’ by Dark Knight  )

I got my first teaching position in the orphanage. Most kids in this orphanage were so called ‘social orphans’. Their parents were still around, but were not allowed to care for their kids. Unfortunately, by the time these kids got to the orphanage, the harm has already been done. The orphanage itself was not paradise either, though we tried to give these kids as much love as we could. But how much love and affection can one heart give to 20-30 kids? Not much…

I’ve finished for the day. 7 pm. It was time to go home.
“I want a story, mummy. Just one more story, please?” – they used to call me ‘mummy’. I always found it hard. How can ‘a mummy’ say “I’ve finished for today. See you tomorrow.” or “I need to go home”. Home? What is ‘home’? And where?
“I want a cuddle, mum.”
“I have a sore leg.”
“I need a drink.”
“I’ve lost my toothbrush.”
“I am scared of darkness.”
“There is a big hole in my pants.”
Requests were coming from all sides.

“Ok, ok. Another five minutes.”

The clock struck 8 pm. It was dark outside. Last kiss, last hug, last smile… Cold winter air at last. One hour to walk home. The buses were not going here, have no money for a taxi.

I rushed along the street and stopped by the last street lamp. There was a dark patch ahead. Not safe for ladies at night. But the police used to patrol this part of the street at night time. Two other ladies were already waiting by the lamp. At last we saw two guys in police uniforms. Pretending, that we were just enjoying a leisurely night stroll, we follow closely behind them. Here was the end of their route. They turned back. I rushed further down the street, trying not to stay too close to the kerbside. Just in case, not to be pulled into a passing car. A middle-aged man walked towards me.

“Just a second, lady. You are so young and pretty. You have the whole life ahead. Look above. These roofs had not been cleaned from ice and snow for the whole winter. I would not walk that close to these buildings.” He disappeared in the darkness of the night.

I was half way home when I spotted a group of young people further down the street. I slowed down.

A sudden screech of the breaks made me jump a few meters away from the kerb.

“Oh, Ivan. That’s you. You gave me a fright.”

“I phoned you at home, but no one answered. I got worried and started looking for you. Why are you so late? Jump in the car.”

“Gosh, you are just on time.” I said, pointing at the group of young lads at the end of the street.

Skinheads started roaming the streets. Beware if you have different colour of the skin, asian eye shape, wearing skirt or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…

* * *


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